Resilience and confidence are key to Norwich City improving their dreadful away form
- Credit: Graham Lynch
With away form holding the key to Norwich City salvaging a play-off campaign, DAVID FREEZER talks to a former Canary with five promotions on his CV
Away form has left Norwich City's promotion hopes hanging by a thread this season, leaving supporters scratching their heads at the stark contrast with their team's excellent home form.
While the Canaries have scored more goals at home than any other Championship club this season and only four teams have picked up more points on their own turf, away form continues to puncture momentum.
It seems to have become a psychological issue for City's players, picking up just 17 points from a possible 57 so far, tracing back to a horrendous September night in Newcastle. Alex Neil's team were 3-2 up at St James' Park and on the verge of going top of the table – but managed to lose 4-3 in injury-time, in the same stadium where they had been beaten 6-2 the previous season.
In fact, when that Premier League relegation season is taken into account, travelling Canaries fans have seen 24 defeats in the last 38 away games, seeing their team claim just 28 of a possible 114 points. That's a far stretch from the wonderful away form of the promotion season of 2014/15 – the club's best ever return of 44 away points in one season.
So how can those tortuous travels come to an end? Former City right-back Marc Edworthy was a key member of the 2003/04 Division One title winning team which picked up an excellent 37 away points.
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With five promotions to the top flight on his CV, the former Derby, Crystal Palace and Coventry defender knows exactly what it takes to excel in the second tier and remembers a simple motto for away games.
'A lot of the teams I played in were good home and away, we didn't let our away form dictate,' Edworthy recalled. 'If you're going to be successful you have to be good away.
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'You go away with a point and the worst case scenario is you come back with a point.'
Unfortunately that hasn't been the worst case scenario the current Canaries have enjoyed on many occasions, with Neil having admitted arrogance had seeped in, particularly in defeats against struggling teams including Rotherham, Burton and QPR.
'It's unfortunate they dropped out of the Premier League but I really thought they were going to be strong, along with Newcastle and Villa,' Edworthy continued.
'I thought Norwich would have what it takes to do it and this away form has stopped that in its tracks. They've still got a chance, five points to make up and I still think there are twists and turns to come, between Sheffield Wednesday and Fulham, Derby are a bit far away now. So if they can get the away form sorted they're still in with a chance.'
The 44-year-old now works for apprenticeship provider 3aaa, working in the sporting side of the business in Derby, where he has worked with the Canaries to set up some apprentices at Carrow Road. He also does corporate match-day work for Derby County and writes a column for the Rams' official website.
He still looks back fondly on his 76 appearances across two seasons with Norwich and is still in contact with several former team-mates including Darren Huckerby, Iwan Roberts and Adam Drury.
'That season, looking back at the table, we won 18 at home and 10 away, and I think West Brom were the only team to win more away from home – but we won the league by eight points,' Edworthy said. 'So we were fantastic at Carrow Road, which is a fantastic place to play, it's always full, if you don't enjoy playing there then you shouldn't be playing football.
'With the home support, I just don't think we thought we could be beaten, we had a winning mentality. If you start doubting yourself in away games then that's not going to help, although I knew some players who preferred to play away believe it or not.
'That year, to win by eight points, we just gained momentum at home and away points always help. When Crouchy and Hucks came in and turned it, we got into a winning mentality and training was high-tempo.
'Nigel Worthington didn't really have a great deal to do because the dressing room took care of itself to some extent.'
You suspect Edworthy's final comment may just provoke a fair bit of envy from a jobless Alex Neil, as interim City boss Alan Irvine continues trying to bring order to the chaos – with a trip to Villa Park awaiting on Saturday.
Travelling Canaries teams in the second tier
2014/15 – 44 points
2010/11 – 39
2003/04 – 37
2008/09 – 14 points
2000/01 – 17
1999/00 – 18
(Since 1981, when three points for a win was introduced)
City's hardy travelling fans haven't had much to enjoy so far this season and the statistics don't make for nice reading.
It's been largely downhill ever since the 4-1 win at Blackburn on the opening day, with an early 3-0 loss at Birmingham compounded by a 5-0 defeat at Brighton and 5-1 humbling at Sheffield Wednesday.
Throw into the mix an embarrassing 2-1 defeat at rock-bottom Rotherham in January and there's not been a lot of fun, but how has it gone so wrong?
Well it's another fork in the eye for possession fans – City average 52.2 per cent possession in their away games this season, only three teams have managed more, according to the stattos at whoscored.com.
So keeping hold of the ball hasn't been a problem but discipline could certainly have been better, having picked up 40 bookings and four red cards. Only four teams can match that away indiscipline, with Nottingham Forest picking up a shocking six reds on the road.
On the back foot, only two teams average less tackles per game than City's 14.4 but, oddly, just three teams have averaged more interceptions than Norwich (15.7pg).
The attacking stats don't look great either. Just two teams have averaged less shots per away game than the Canaries (11.4) and only four have averaged more offsides than City's 2.3 per game.
In summary, offside too often, not shooting enough and not making enough tackles, with some unhelpful indiscipline in the mix as well – not a formula for success.
Tough trips to Villa, Huddersfield, Preston and Leeds await, have City learned their lessons yet?
Championship's worst travellers
• Goals conceded
1 Rotherham (24th in the table) – 58
2 Norwich (8th) – 38
3 Nottingham Forest (20th) – 37
• Least goals scored
1 Aston Villa (12th) – 12
2 Rotherham (24th) – 13
3 Ipswich (17th) – 15
*9 Norwich (8th) – 24
• Least points collected
1 Rotherham (24th) – 1
2 Nottingham Forest (20th) – 10
3 Blackburn – 12
*6 Norwich (8th) – 17
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